Directors of the Museum, Past and Present

Sir William Dawson, 1882 - 1892

Frank Williams Dawson

Sir William Dawson was the foremost Canadian scientist and educator of his day. He was a geologist, naturalist, teacher, administrator and prolific author. As Principal, he presided over the transformation of McGill from a struggling college to one of North America's premier universities. Dawson has been called the man who built McGill. Among his legacies is the Redpath Museum and its collections.

Dawson was born in Pictou, Nova Scotia in 1820 and studied at the University of Edinburgh. Upon his return to Canada he worked with Sir Charles Lyell and eventually served as superintendent of education of Nova Scotia. When Dawson arrived at McGill in 1855, he brought with him his collection of fossils, rocks, minerals, birds and butterflies. These he installed in a room in the Arts building, which served as McGill's first museum. Under his wing, the collections grew. When the Geological Survey of Canada moved its museum from Montreal to Ottawa, Dawson determined to establish an even better museum at McGill. It was then that the Montreal industrialist Peter Redpath offered to provide McGill with a museum building that would be the best of its kind in Canada. In doing so, Redpath also wanted to commemorate Dawson's twenty-five fruitful years as Principal of McGill. The new museum was officially opened in August 1882 and included archeological and ethnological artefacts as well as the natural history specimens described above.

When the Royal Society of Canada was founded, he was its first President, and he was also President of both the American and British Associations for the Advancement of Science (the only person to have ever held both presidencies) and the Geological Society of America. He was knighted and appointed Companion to The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George. Dawson College was later named after him, and he authored over four hundred books and articles. His reputation was immense, especially in geology, and his death in 1899 was prominently noted in North America and around the world.

Dr Frank Dawson Adams, 1892 - 1932

F.D. Adams on the Redpath Stairs

Frank Dawson Adams was born on September 17, 1859 in Montréal, Quebec. He was a geologist and educator, considered Canada’s most eminent geologist of the first half of the 20th Century. He obtained his M.A.Sc. from McGill University in 1884, and went on to Heidelberg University, Germany to obtain his Ph.D.

Using a new petrographic technique, examining mineral slices under a polarization microscope, Adams laid the foundations of modern igneous and metamorphic petrography in Canada. His work on the flow of brittle rocked established him as the founder of modern structural geology.

Adams was a chemist and petrographer for the Geological Survey of Canada (1880-89), president of the Royal Society of Canada (1913-14), and president of the Geological Society of America (1919). His greatest achievement to the Canadian geological community was in his research at McGill on the Monteregian Hills Petrographic Province, a term which he coined. He was Director of the Redpath Museum from 1892 until 1924 when he retired. In 1938, he published The Birth and Development of the Geological Sciences which is still one of the most frequently quoted references on early geological, mineralogical and gemological history. Frank Dawson Adams died in Montréal, Quebec on December 26, 1942. In 2000, the mineral Adamsite was named after him. A memorial plaque dedicated to Adams is on the front of the museum.

Dr Thomas H. Clark, 1932 - 1952

TH Clark

Thomas Henry Clark was born in London, England on December 3, 1893. He was a geologist, paleontologist and educator. He was born in England, educated in the United States, and worked principally in Canada. He is considered one of the top Canadian scientists of the 20th Century, and has authored more than 100 scientific publications.

He attended Harvard University and graduated in 1917 with an A.B. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during WWI (1917-19), and served in France. He returned to Harvard after the war and obtained his A.M. (1921) and Ph.D. (1923). The geology of the Saint-Laurent Lowlands became his major lifetime work and laid the foundations for all subsequent mapping and research studies in the area. He worked on this project for 25 years (1938-63) and published The Geological Evolution of North America(1960), written with Colin W. Stearn, and later edited with McGill University’s biology professor Robert Carroll. This publication quickly became the standard text in university-level geology.

Clark came to McGill University in 1924 as assistant professor in the Department of Geology (now Earth and Planetary Sciences). His long association with the Redpath Museum began after his arrival and his work to identify and classify fossils at the Museum. He personally collected many of the Museum’s fossils, including the Burgess Shale (British Columbia) material. In 1933 Clark was named Logan Professor of Paleontology, a chair he held until 1962. Also in 1930, he was appointed Curator of Redpath Museum, a position which later became Director and lasted for 20 years (1932-52). In 1963 he was named Professor Emeritus and in 1964 he became an Advisor in Geology at the Redpath Museum until 1992. In May 1993, Clark resigned, ending his career at McGill University 69 years after it began.

He was president of the Geological Association of Canada (1958-59), Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1933), and president of the Geological Science Section of the Royal Society of Canada (1953-54). He was honoured with the Harvard Centennial Medal (1930), the Logan Gold Medal from the Geological Association of Canada (1971), the Prix Grand Mérite of the Association Professionnelle des Géologues et Géophysiciens du Québec (1993) and the Centenary Medal of the Royal Society of Canada (1993). Thomas Henry Clark died in Montréal on April 28, 1996 at the age of 103. In 1997, the mineral Thomasclarkite was named in his honour.

Alice Johannsen, 1952 - 1970

Alice Johanssen

Alice Elizabeth Johannsen was born in 1911 in Havana, Cuba. She was a geologist, naturalist and educator. She was the daughter of well-known skier Herman-Smith “Jackrabbit” Johannsen, who introduced Nordic skiing to Canada. Spending the first few years of her life in Norway, Alice’s family eventually moved to New York where her love of nature began. The Johannsens moved to Montréal when Alice was in her late teens.

She studied at McGill University when the worst of the Great Depression was in swing, and Alice decided to withdraw. McGill University granted her a small emergency loan for tuition, allowing her to stay and complete a B.Sc. with Honours in 1934. From McGill University, Alice landed a graduate apprenticeship in Outdoor Nature Education at the Newark Museum in New Jersey (1935). She returned to Canada holding the Carnegie Fellowship in Museum Training at the National Gallery of Canada (1936-39).

Alice began working at McGill University as a secretary and demonstrator for the Zoology Department (1939). She also worked part-time at the Redpath Museum, which led to her appointment as Assistant Curator in 1942. Alice was then appointed Assistant Director (1949-51) and Curator of Ethnology (1949-62). In 1952 she became Director of University Museums, a position which comprised all McGill University museums and which lasted until 1971. During this time she fought a hard battle to preserve the collections in spite of the growing lack of interest in the McGill University Museums.

Alice retired from McGill University in 1971. She helped establish the Mont St. Hilaire Nature Conservation Centre (1972) on the Gault Estate. This she directed until 1979. She was a Fellow of the British Museums Association (1962) and received a diploma. She was a Fellow of the Canadian Museums Association and was granted a diploma (1969). She was granted an LL.D. from St. Thomas University in New Brunswick (1975). Alice had a great influence on the development of museums in Canada, being one of the founding members and President of the Canadian Museums Association.Alice Elizabeth Johannsen died January 2, 1992 at the age of 80. Before her death she donated her property to Mont St. Hilaire.

Dr John Lewis, 1970 - 1985

John Lewis

John Bradley Lewis was born January 12, 1925 in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a McGill University veteran, having completed three degrees and spending over fifty years working at the university. He obtained a B.Sc. in Zoology (1949), a M.Sc. in Zoology (1951) and a Ph.D. in Zoology with the thesis The Occurrence and Vertical Distribution of the Euphausiacea of the Florida Current (1954). Lewis’ research has focused upon the biology and ecology of the plants and animals living in and around coral reefs, as well as tropical fishes. He has published more than 100 papers.

Lewis’ career at McGill University began upon his doctorate graduation with the position of Assistant Professor (1954-1960). From there he became an Associate Professor (1960-68); and moved up to Professor, a position he held until 1992. In 2000, he was awarded Professor Emeritus status in the Department of Biology. He became Director of the Redpath Museum in 1971, a position which lasted for fourteen years and ending in 1985, when he became Director (1984-88) of the short-lived Institute of Oceanography.

At the same time Lewis obtained his Ph.D., he found a position as one of the Founding Directors of the McGill University’s Bellairs Research Institute. Located in Barbados, it is Canada’s only tropical teaching and research centre. He moved there with his wife and began his research on the life history of sea urchins. The mission of the Institute is to provide a facility for McGill University staff who have developed interests for tropical research. The primary interests of the Institute were focused towards marine sciences, however these interests have broadened over the years to include a wider spectrum from the sciences and humanities. His appointment as Director has inspired and initiated great scientific development within the Institute.

Lewis continues his research at McGill University, focusing on the biology and ecology of the hydrocoral Millepora on coral reefs.

Dr Robert Carroll, 1985 - 1991

Robert Carroll

Robert Lynn Carroll was born May 5, 1938 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is a vertebrate paleontologist, biology educator and museum curator. He was introduced to the world of paleontology when he was five years old when his father, a science teacher, brought home a box of fossils. By the time he was eight years old he knew he wanted to be a vertebrate paleontologist and by the time he was twelve he had amassed enough fossils to fill two rooms in the family barn. This Carroll dubbed “The Mason Museum of Natural History.” He attended Michigan State University and graduated with a B.Sc. in Geology (1959). He decided to carry out his graduate work at the University of Chicago, but changed his mind and decided instead to attend Harvard University, where he obtained both his M.A. (1961) and his Ph.D. (1963). He performed postdoctoral studies at both the Redpath Museum - McGill University (NRC Postdoctoral Fellow 1962-63) and the British Museum - Natural History (NSF Postdoctoral Fellow 1963-64). He is acclaimed as recognizing and describing the oldest known ancestor of all reptiles, birds and mammals. His studies have focused on the origins of terrestrial vertebrates and the origins of various amphibians.

He has won many awards including the Schuchert Award of the Paleontological Society (1978), Elkanah Billings Medal of the Geological Association of Canada (1991), Willet G. Miller Medal of the Royal Society of Canada (2001), Honorary Member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2001) and the Romer-Simpson Medal of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2004). He has been involved in a large number of associations including the Society for the Study of Evolution, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (President 1982-83), Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology, Paleontological Society (Editor), Fellow of the Linnean Society (Editor), Society of Systematic Zoology, Paleontological Association, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Royal Society of Edinburgh (Consulting Editor 1993-Present), North American Paleontological Convention (Treasurer 1980-82), First World Congress of Herpetology (Executive Board, Treasurer 1982-94).

Carroll’s career at McGill University began with the position of Assistant Professor of Zoology (1964-69). He then became an Associate Professor of Biology (1969-74), and went on to become a full Professor of Biology (1974-2003). From 1964-65 he was Associate Curator of Geology at the Redpath Museum, and became Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology in 1965 holding the position to this day. He was Assistant Director of the Museum from 1970-84 and became Director in 1985, a position he held until 1991. He held the position of Strathcona Professor of Zoology from 1987-2003. He was the Chairman of the Department of Biology (1990-95). He became Professor Emeritus in 2003. He has held various positions on committees at McGill University such as the Museum Committee (Long-standing), Cyclical Review Committees: Pathology (1988) and Anatomy (1990-91), Tenure Committee – Faculty of Medicine (1988-89) and he sat on the Senate representing Biology (1971-72, 1983-86).

Carroll continues his research at the Redpath Museum, McGill University in Montreal, Quebec & has been appointed to the Order of Canada. The press release can be found here.

Dr Valerie Pasztor, 1991 - 1995

Valerie Pasztor

Valerie Margaret Pasztor (born Aimer) was born in London, England on February 28, 1936. She attended Birmingham University in England and obtained her B.Sc. in 1957. She obtained her Ph.D. (1961) from McMaster University with the thesis Some Observations on Teleost Respiration with Emphasis on the Gill Filament Musculature and the Respiratory Centres of the Brain. Her research focuses primarily on the modulation of sensory systems by neurohormones such as proctolin, octopamine, and serotonin, using crustacean mechanoreceptors as model systems. She is using a variety of methods to study two aspects of mechano-sensory modulation: its role in the control of motor behaviour and the mechanisms whereby modulators can alter sensory responsiveness. She has close to 40 publications including Impulse-Cooled and Analog Signalling in Single Mechanoreceptor Neurons (1982 with B.M.H. Bush), and Modulation of Mechano-Sensitivity in Identified Afferent Fibres of a Lobster Stretch Receptor (1987 with B.M.H. Bush).

Pasztor came to McGill University in 1960 as a Lecturer in Zoology. She was Lecturer and Head Demonstrator (1961-62), Assistant Professor (1962-68), and finally an Associate Professor (1968-2001), a position which she held until her retirement. She held positions on a large number of committees and councils at McGill University. She was Director of the Core Curriculum in Biology (1970-73), an Associate Dean in the Faculty on Graduate Studies (1975-80), a Visiting Lecturer (1983), Director of the Redpath Museum (1991-95) and Director (Academic) of McGill Summer Studies. Pasztor became known for organizing the campaign to collect money in order to purchase the Albertosaurus, located in the main gallery, during her time as Director of the Redpath Museum.

Pasztor is a member of the Society for Experimental Biology, the Canadian Society of Zoology and the Society of Neuroscience. She has been the Secretary Treasurer in the Canadian Association of Graduate Schools (1976-80). She has held various positions within the Canadian Society of Zoology including Council Member (1988-91), 1st Vice President (1993-94), President (1994-95), and Bulletin Editor (1995-Present). She was the Director of the Huntsman Marine Laboratory (H.M.L.), located in St. Andrew’s, New Brunswick from 1970-74, and was a voting member of the Board from 1974-88. She acted as a consultant for the Alberta Heritage Foundation, Toronto University, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

Pasztor continues her research at McGill University in neurobiology; mechanoreceptors in crustacea; neuropeptides and bioamines; neuromodulation of sensory receptors; and mechano-sensitive ion channels.

Dr Graham Bell, 1995 - 2005

Graham Bell

Graham Arthur Charlton Bell was born March 3, 1949 in Leicester, England. He attended Oxford University where he obtained a B.A. in Zoology (1970), M.A. (1971) and Ph.D. in Animal Ecology (1974). He has published over 90 articles on evolution and ecology, as well as such works as The Masterpiece of Nature (1982), Sex & Death in Protozoa (1988) and Selection: The Mechanism of Evolution (1996). Bell entered Canada in 1975 and worked as a biologist for the Alberta Civil Service (1975-76). He is at the forefront of evolutionary biology in Canada, and has advanced knowledge about the origins of biodiversity. His breakthrough theory concerning biodiversity assumes that all ecologically similar organisms have the same demographic properties in all circumstances such as rate of birth, death and migration.

Bell began his academic career as a Temporary Lecturer at McGill University in 1976. He became a Full Professor in 1989. He was Director of Redpath Museum from 1995 to 2005. He headed, as Director, the renovations to the Redpath Museum (2003).

Other awards Bell has received include the Molson Professor of Genetics (1992), Prix Léo-Pariseau (2002) and the Prix de Québec for pure and applied sciences, the Prix Marie-Victorin (2004), in recognition of his achievements in the field of evolutionary biology. In 2004 he was credited (together with his doctoral student Sinead Collins) with one of the top 10 scientific discoveries of the year, rated by the journal Québec Science, concerning plants and the greenhouse effect. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1995), Fellow of the Linnean Society, member of the Society for the Study of Evolution and the European Society for Evolutionary Biology.

His research focuses on experimental studies of evolution using Chlamydomonas as a model system; the origin and evolution of sex; the evolution of genome parasites; field experiments on the structure of natural environments and the diversity of native plant communities; and comparative studies of life cycles.

Dr David Green, 2005 - 2015

Dr. Green at the museum​David Martin Green was born January 20, 1953, in Vancouver, British Columbia. He obtained a B.Sc. (hons) in Zoology from the University of British Columbia (1976) and an M.Sc. (1979) and Ph.D. (1982), both also in Zoology, from the University of Guelph. After spending 1981 – 1983 as an NSERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley he began his academic career as a sabbatical replacement at the rank of Assistant Professor at McMaster University and then at the University of Windsor before coming to the Redpath Museum in 1986 as an NSERC University Research Fellow and Assistant Professor. Green became a Full Professor in 2004 and Director of the Redpath Museum in 2005.

Green’s research concerns the ecology, genetics, and evolution of amphibians, and is particularly interested in species at risk, including the determinants of species’ ranges and population declines, population dynamics, dispersal and recruitment in amphibians, and declining amphibian populations. Few of his publications fail to mention frogs or toads in some manner. He has authored over 100 refereed publications (including 17 book chapters) and more than 100 miscellaneous other publications and reports. His books include The Amphibians and Reptiles of British Columbia (2007), Amphibians in Decline. Canadian Studies of a Global Problem. (1997) and Amphibian Cytogenetics and Evolution (1991). Green is, or has been, Associate Editor for Diversity and Distributions, (2007 - ), Ecography (2007 - ), the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society (2006 - ) and Herpetologica (1995 - 2002). He is on the editorial boards of the Canadian Journal of Zoology (2005 - ) and Biochemical Systematics and Ecology (1996 - ). His memberships in academic societies include being a Fellow of the Linnean Society and a member of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, the Herpetologists' League and the Society for Conservation Biology. He was President of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (2001 – 2002) and founding President of the Canadian Association of Herpetologists in 1989. He was Chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (1998 – 2002) and served on the Science Advisory Council of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2002 – 2005).

Land Acknowledgement

McGill University is on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. We acknowledge and thank the diverse Indigenous peoples whose presence marks this territory on which peoples of the world now gather.

The Redpath Museum's director EDI statement.

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